Our Favorite Traditional Christmas Movies

The holidays are a special time of the year that brings people together. Tasty meals are cooked up, joyful music plays on the radio, and magical films play on TV. It is a time to make memories and enjoy the company of friends and family. Due to all this activity, the holidays can also be a stressful time of year. Sometimes we need a little help to get in the mood and see how endearing the season can be. Sometimes we need a reminder of what makes this time of year special and fun. 

That’s where movies come in. Holiday films are an excellent way to get in the spirit. They sprinkle us with just enough comedy, nostalgia, and feel-good drama that we can’t help but get that warm fuzzy feeling inside. Cinelinx is honoring the special type of movies that are holiday films. Here is our list of our favorite traditional holiday films complete with an explanation of why we think they are so great.


Garrett – Home Alone

I grew up watching Home Alone, and therefore it has a special place in my heart. Here is a holiday movie about family. At first, Kevin thinks that he doesn’t want his family around, and is happy when they are gone. This is a sentiment that I think all of us have shared at least once in our lives. Our family is full of people who love us for who we are, yet sometimes, they can be annoying. Sometimes you might feel like they are holding you back, or maybe they don’t understand you. That’s exactly the premise of Home Alone. Kevin feels lost in the crowd of his huge family and no one pays any attention or cares about him. In the end of the film, we learn that this is not true. Sure, family can be overwhelming at times, they can make mistakes, but ultimately they will support and love you. Home Alone delivers this happy message along with lots of slapstick, comical violence, and little kid hijinx. Those elements of the film give it a lot of rewatchability, and for that reason I can still watch it today and will never be bored with it. In all, Home Alone is a perfect blend of entertainment and thoughtful, relatable insight.  

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Mike Petty – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

I spent most of my childhood watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer not only for its great storytelling but for the claymation.  Claymation is one of the slowest and most painstaking ways to create a film, both then and now.  It give you a sense of wonder and amazement as the characters move across the screen by unseen hands.


Olly Bennett – The Christmas Messenger

Even the non religious cannot fail to appreciate some of the stunning art that has come from the tradition and commitment to faith of the religious. Many a myth has been turned into song and, in more recent times animation, in its name. It is in The Christmas Messenger that I have found the most delightful combination of these two.

The charming and engagingly-voiced live-action narration is interspersed with beautiful animation shorts, acting as visual cohorts to the unique and well-sung carols. Their delivery is warm and joyful and triumphant. This feels ‘Christmassy’ to the max, in the most traditional way.

Though not feature-length, so not necessarily a ‘movie’, it is however traditional for me. I watch this every Christmas, and find nothing more accomplished in filling one with the seasonal spirit. Sat upon vast comfy sofas, stuffed full of Christmas dinner, a state of food comatose, open fire crackling, the scent of clementines floating in the air from the brave few willing to further challenge their stomach’s elasticity, the room lit by little more than twinkling fairy lights of a decorated tree, and the family in admirational silence of this beautiful film. Little else can match it for its joyous and warm delivery of Christian myth. A tough one to find but well worth hunting down, whatever your religious persuasion.


Jordan – Santa Claus is Coming to Town

While I admittedly don’t care much about various Holidays throughout the year, I go all out for Christmas time.  It’s just a lot of fun, and I enjoy getting in the spirit by watching films.  By and large the most important film for me to watch during the holidays is Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  It’s an older claymation style film that explains the original of Kris Kringle and why he does the things he does. 

I kid you not, it is NOT Christmas for me until I’ve seen this movie. Several years ago, I was so busy with work that I never got the chance to see the film when they played it on TV.  It was almost Christmas so I went to the local store, bought a copy of the DVD and watched it on Christmas Eve.  Frankly, that entire month, that was the only time I felt like it was the Christmas season.  It’s an important movie to me, and one I watched religiously as a child.  

For kids, it answers a lot of questions about Santa.  Where he comes from, why does he only do things at a certain time of year, how does he know what you’re doing year round, and what’s up with the chimney?  As kids, these are the things we often wonder.  Though we get older and stop believing in Santa, these answers help form the basis on which we explain to our own children the story of Santa.  

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Dustin  – National Lampoons: Christmas Vacation

I don’t find a lot of standard holiday movies that entertaining, and sometimes boring. So I tend to lean towards comedies, or more fun movies to watch. That is why Christmas Vacation is my must watch holiday movie every year. I think I watch this movie 10 times a day as every family event has it playing at some point. The movie is pure gold. It exaggerates a family get together during the holidays and it does it perfectly. Every person falls into their role, and surprisingly it is easy for me to relate to a lot of the characters. The goofy nature of it just makes it perfect. The movie does an excellent job of somewhat portraying the standard “this is family time” and teaches you a lesson, but it doesn’t do it in the standard holiday format found elsewhere. Beyond all the bickering, odd relatives, and struggles to make things “perfect” it all somehow works out when family is around. I think the only holiday movie I watch as much as Christmas Vacation is A Christmas Story, and it has the same formula behind it. That must be why both movies are so fantastic! 


Aaron – Elf

You can’t not give yourself over to the incessant joy and energy of this film. It’s become the modern goto comedic Christmas flick and so my choice may come off as arbitrary. However, it’s become a staple for a reason, the same way cliched phrases have become cliche, because there’s some universal merit to it. Will Ferrell was a funny side guy, but Elf put him into the star vehicle because he showed that he could carry a film and make it look effortless. Elf is unabashedly silly and tender humor. There’s no sign of subtle Christmas cynicism, and Ferrell’s Buddy The Elf has nothing but admiration and love for the Holiday;  It’s a Christmas charisma too contagious to resist. 


Chris “danger” Kidd – A Christmas Story

Christmas has a special place in my heart for many reasons, Being a non-traditionalist when it comes to film most of the year, I would like to submit to you my choice for a more traditional holiday film: A Christmas Story. Adapted from the short stories of humorist Gene Shepherd, it tells the story of young Ralphie Parker, a boy with a Christmas wish, a Red Ryder BB gun. Throughout his travails of getting his parents attention on the gift he wants, his interactions with his friends Flick and Schwartz, as well as dealing with his little brother Randy give this film both credence and heart. The sub plots of the film are where it shines, including Ralphies father (aka The Old Man) and his dealing with a stubborn furnace and winning a major award. Simply put, the film while over three decades old, has become a holiday tradition for not just my family, but countless others. 

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Katy Barber – The Nightmare Before Christmas

Although it may seem a bit unconventional if you’ve never seen it, The Nightmare Before Christmas has been a staple movie in my Christmastime repertoire for as long as I can remember. It originated in a poem written by the director of the movie Tim Burton and was turned into a stop-motion musical by Disney working with Burton. The story follows Jack Skellington, a resident from Halloween Town, who finds a portal to Christmas Town and is enamored with the holiday. Jack decides that they must take over Christmas and the movie follows the journey Jack goes on to celebrate the Holiday and the hilarious consequences of his actions. 


Everyone seems to have that one special traditional Christmas film that helps get them in the holiday spirit.  These are ours, but we want to hear about yours as well!  Tell us which Christmas movie is a must-see every year in your household.  

-The Cinelinx Team